Esil's Reviews > A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite
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it was ok
bookshelves: netgalley

GR friend Julie described reading A Beautiful, Terrible Thing as "gawking at a train wreck". My feelings exactly. And let me add a few other feelings:

-While clearly personally devastating, Ms. Waite's experience of betrayal -- of having been duped by her ex husband -- is sadly not that unusual. I can think of a few people I know who have had similar experiences -- some of them far more jaw dropping.
-I hope for Ms. Waite that in the years to come -- especially when her daughter becomes old enough to read this book -- she doesn't have too much writer's remorse. I'm sure writing and publishing this book felt cathartic, but I'm not sure how well that feeling will age.
-I'm surprised a mainstream publisher picked this one up. The telling through dual timelines is clever, but other than that this is not a particularly unusual story and the self analysis at the end is really amateur.

All this to say, I feel bad for Ms. Waite in the way I would feel bad if a friend or acquaintance was telling me this story, but I'm a bit stumped as to why it's book worthy.

Take my review with a grain of salt. This book made me feel really judgmental which is one of my least favourite reactions when reading a memoir. Clearly, other readers have felt far more empathy for Ms. Waite or otherwise got more shock value out of her story.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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Reading Progress

April 14, 2017 – Shelved
April 14, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
April 14, 2017 – Shelved as: netgalley
July 23, 2017 – Started Reading
July 24, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-49 of 49 (49 new)

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message 1: by Angela M (new)

Angela M I tend to shy away from memoirs, Esil unless it's an extraordinary story . Sounds like this wasn't. Hope your next one is a great one !


message 2: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Noted and appreciated, Esil! Hoping your next few books make up for this one!


Esil Angela M wrote: "I tend to shy away from memoirs, Esil unless it's an extraordinary story . Sounds like this wasn't. Hope your next one is a great one !"

I didn't use to read memoirs but I've read some good ones in the last couple of years or so. I should have been more discriminating when I chose to read this one.


Esil Cheri wrote: "Noted and appreciated, Esil! Hoping your next few books make up for this one!"

Thanks Cheri. I'm still trying to figure out what's next but it won't be a memoir.


message 5: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan Great honest review Esil.... I love a great memoir, so I think I'll skip this one !!!


Esil Megan wrote: "Great honest review Esil.... I love a great memoir, so I think I'll skip this one !!!"

Thanks Megan. You might want to read other reviews but as you can see this really wasn't my cup of tea.


message 7: by Donna (new)

Donna I like your honesty about feeling judgemental. I feel that way too often about books I've read.


message 8: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Sorry it didn't work for you, Esil. I hope your next book is a better one. Thanks for the honest review :)


Esil Donna wrote: "I like your honesty about feeling judgemental. I feel that way too often about books I've read."

Thanks Donna. I certainly prefer books that make me feel that way.


message 10: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Deanna wrote: "Sorry it didn't work for you, Esil. I hope your next book is a better one. Thanks for the honest review :)"

Thanks Deanna. Moving on to a mystery...


message 11: by Jen (new)

Jen I'll take your review with more than a grain of salt and pass. I agree - writing something like this may feel good at the time but who wants to be constantly reminded of such a betrayal ? Thanks Esil!


message 12: by Iris P (new)

Iris P Nice review Esil. My sense is that perhaps we have too many people writing memoirs that are not particularly original or at all memorable. Going by your comments seems like this one fits into that category!


message 13: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Jen wrote: "I'll take your review with more than a grain of salt and pass. I agree - writing something like this may feel good at the time but who wants to be constantly reminded of such a betrayal ? Thanks Esil!"

Thanks Jen. She also goes through the minutiae of her reaction -- following him on social media, etc... -- very personal things that I can't imagine wanting to have out there forever.


message 14: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Iris P wrote: "Nice review Esil. My sense is that perhaps we have too many people writing memoirs that are not particularly original or at all memorable. Going by your comments seems like this one fits into that ..."

Thanks Iris. It's especially irksome in this case because it's being marketed as something much more dramatic. It's clearly personally dramatic but unfortunately not particularly unusual.


Julie Ehlers Nice review, Esil. Good point that in a few years she may wish she hadn't put all this out there. This was definitely a case where getting some distance may have been helpful for both the author and the reader.


message 16: by Esil (last edited Jul 25, 2017 08:21AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Julie wrote: "Nice review, Esil. Good point that in a few years she may wish she hadn't put all this out there. This was definitely a case where getting some distance may have been helpful for both the author an..."

Thanks Julie. I couldn't help thinking about her daughter. I feel like what we got was the author's unadulterated rage which may not be conducive to fostering some kind of relationship between her ex and her daughter. It's interesting that in contrast Nat tried to maintain a relationship with her son's father. It just felt like more thought should have gone into the decision to publish. That's what I mean about feeling judgmental!


Julie Ehlers Esil wrote: "I feel like what we got was the author's unadulterated rage which may not be conducive to fostering some kind of relationship between her ex and her daughter."

Right, her daughter is going to grow up knowing her mother diagnosed her father as a psychopath after reading about it on the internet, and then got a book deal on the basis of that diagnosis. Just bizarre.


message 18: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Thanks for the heads up. I'll avoid this like the plague. I know I wouldn't like it. Great, honest review.


message 19: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Debbie wrote: "Thanks for the heads up. I'll avoid this like the plague. I know I wouldn't like it. Great, honest review."

Thanks Debbie. I would only want you to read it because it might revive the complaint board :)


message 20: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Esil wrote: "Debbie wrote: "Thanks for the heads up. I'll avoid this like the plague. I know I wouldn't like it. Great, honest review."

Thanks Debbie. I would only want you to read it because it might revive t..."


Lol, but what it would do to me mentally.....!


message 21: by Taryn (new)

Taryn Very helpful review! I was tempted by this one, but after reading a few reviews I'm thinking the publisher's summary set my expectations too high.


Valentina Great review. Purchased this book and had the same thought after reading it.


message 23: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Taryn wrote: "Very helpful review! I was tempted by this one, but after reading a few reviews I'm thinking the publisher's summary set my expectations too high."

Thanks Taryn. I agree that the publisher's description makes this sound like more than it is.


message 24: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Valentina wrote: "Great review. Purchased this book and had the same thought after reading it."

Thanks Valentina. It would be especially disappointing if you purchased the book.


message 25: by JanB (new)

JanB I know that judgmental feeling when reading a memoir, and yes, it makes me feel like a heel. But I appreciate honestly in a review - its very helpful when choosing what to read next. Sorry this didn't meet your expectations, may your next read be a good one! :-)


message 26: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil JanB wrote: "I know that judgmental feeling when reading a memoir, and yes, it makes me feel like a heel. But I appreciate honestly in a review - its very helpful when choosing what to read next. Sorry this did..."

Thanks JanB. Long forgotten! I've since read Jasmyn Ward's book and Mrs. Fletcher :)


Tessy Consentino She was also very fortunate that she had supportive and well off parents to support her during this difficult time. I'm very glad she did. I'm happily married for 13 years but I could see some of divorced friends being judgey about all the help she received.


message 28: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Tessy wrote: "She was also very fortunate that she had supportive and well off parents to support her during this difficult time. I'm very glad she did. I'm happily married for 13 years but I could see some of d..."

I was definitely happy for her that she had such supportive parents, Tessy.


Karen This is exactly how I feel about the book. I could not have said it so well. Thanks Esil!


message 30: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Karen wrote: "This is exactly how I feel about the book. I could not have said it so well. Thanks Esil!"

Thanks Karen. I don't seem to be the only one.


Kathy Lash I totally disagree with your review!


message 32: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Kathy wrote: "I totally disagree with your review!"

I expect there will be very different reactions to this book, Karen. This was my reaction.


message 33: by Scottie (new) - added it

Scottie I completely agree with your review, and, quite frankly, think you were kind. As time passed in the book, I began to wonder who had the personality disorder--Marco or Jen. I could not believe a publishing house contracted this book.


message 34: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Scottie wrote: "I completely agree with your review, and, quite frankly, think you were kind. As time passed in the book, I began to wonder who had the personality disorder--Marco or Jen. I could not believe a pub..."

Thanks Scottie. I eid exercise a bit of self restraint in my comments. I hate to be too harsh on a memoir.


message 35: by Scottie (new) - added it

Scottie Esil wrote: "Scottie wrote: "I completely agree with your review, and, quite frankly, think you were kind. As time passed in the book, I began to wonder who had the personality disorder--Marco or Jen. I could n..."

I should have stated, in my initial comment, that I purchased the book (unfortunately) as a result of the Amazon "you might like this" pop up. Because it is summer and I am being slack, I just read the first couple of reviews on Amazon and thought it might be good. I am now realizing (what you all know I am sure), that this is all a part of that initial marketing push as the book was only published in July. I will be more wary of this in the future. I do not think this book will fare well in the long haul.

And, at the risk of being judgmental, while I thought it was nice that she had supportive parents, etc., I thought their total involvement in her affairs (no pun intended) only perpetuated her apparent self-absorption and somewhat adolescent mindset. She is a grown woman who, in my opinion, was not emotionally self-sufficient. Sorry, but that is how I saw it. They are perfectly "nice" people but the author was somewhat childish.


message 36: by Coreen (new)

Coreen "made me feel"


Nicole A very accurate review. I completely agree with your opinions.


message 38: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Nicole wrote: "A very accurate review. I completely agree with your opinions."

Thanks Nicole.


message 39: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro It's perfectly natural to sometimes be judgemental when someone has got themselves into a pickle largely because of the choices they've made.
And our sympathy, or lack thereof, is very often driven by whether we warm to the person or not.
An honest, and I'm guessing accurate, review, Esil.


message 40: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Kevin wrote: "It's perfectly natural to sometimes be judgemental when someone has got themselves into a pickle largely because of the choices they've made.
And our sympathy, or lack thereof, is very often driven..."


Thanks Kevin. You're absolutely right but I prefer to feel sympathy rather than an impulse to finger wave :)


message 41: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Loomis Even though at first I found Waite's book to be compelling...to a point, as I kept reading (listening to audio version) I became less interested and less compelled. I have had therapy and have also counseled with women in abusive relationships that would make Waite's memoir seem tame by comparison. There are a lot of "sick puppies" out there and the author was very fortunate to have had such great support from her parents and friends and a good therapist to help keep her afloat while she extricated herself out of the clutches of this total jerk nightmare husband. With this support she could begin to see herself for who she really is and gain strength and a new and fresh beginning for herself and her daughter. She did the hard work of therapy and came out triumphant on the other side. Bravo for her!

Having said that, I ended up skipping through to the end sections, because for me, after watching years of "therapy on the couch" with Oprah, my own therapy, working in social services and counseling with women in abusive relationships, I have little interest in hearing someone's therapy story because I know the drill. So even though "the drill" of coming to grips with yourself and then doing the hard work of putting therapeutic healing methods into practice, such as cutting off communication with your ex and other extremely diffucult tasks, can make for a good, if not great story, it doesn't do it for me in terms of a story that grabs me and settles into my bones. For many women, though, Waite's memoir may offer help and show them how they can take care of themselves and their children and begin their lives anew!


message 42: by Esil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Esil Nancy -- That's a good point about this book being helpful to some women. That's why I suggest my review be taken with a grain of salt. It's just my reaction to the experience of reading this one.


Julie You said a lot of what I was thinking.


message 44: by Dawn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dawn Higgins This is an accurate assessment of my thoughts, too. While I did not want anything more tragic to have happened to anyone, then tone of the book had me believing something catastrophic had occurred. I am not one to diminish anyone’s experience, as we all feel and respond differently. I also laud anyone who is able to get out of a horrific relationship/situation. But, I am also not certain how this was altogether book worthy in it’s totality.


Cindy Not sure why she needed to constantly use the F-Word. Could she not express herself without it?


message 46: by Kate (new)

Kate I agree with what you’ve said here, Esil. The author has many times referred to her ex as having had a “double life.” I don’t want to split hairs, but I don’t think that cheating on his wife— with a girlfriend who obviously was well-aware of his wife and even lied to her for him—could really be considered as leading a double life. Yes, he was scummy. But she was clearly blinded by her desire to believe that he worshipped her. She doesn’t seem as insightful as she would like to think she is. She pretty much needed to be beaten over the head with the evidence, and she still doesn’t seem to have realized that her choice to immediately jump into bed with a guy who was basically a stranger, despite the fact that she had a boyfriend at the time, kind of set the tone for this ill-fated marriage. It seems like she constructed a fairytale in order to justify her own rash actions. She wanted to believe that their love story was so much more amazing than the average couple’s, and now that it came crashing down, she wants the story of her betrayal to be more amazing, too.


Kristin Hanes You hit the nail on the head. I felt like I was watching a train wreck and sped through the book. But I think the level of her sneaking and his cheating just seemed like two immature people who probably shouldn't have gotten married.


Frances The comments above perfectly exemplify why women who have had traumatic relationships are so often silenced. Here we are given a first hand look into the dynamics of a relationship with a man who cannot feel any real remorse for his actions towards women, his family, and his children and the commentators would rather draw attention to and lambast the writer as not having suffered enough. As if you’d rather Marco had broken one of her ribs or executed that waitress he mentions in order to believe Jen’s was a story worth telling. Obviously a lot of what happens in this book happens every day to various degrees. But what makes this book interesting is the combination of events and their timing. The patterns of behavior that suggest true disengagement with conscience and moral will- that is the warning cry of this memoir. It is for the women who do not trust their intuition to tell them what is going on, even when that something might be putting them in real danger. Even when that something is obvious to the all seeing eyes of the world and of course, to the eyes of anonymous commentators on a goodreads blog. Judgmentalness is just another form of naivety- the idea that whatever happened to another person could never happen to you. But my question is this: is the fact that Jen Waite was lucky enough to have discovered this side of her husband before his behavior ever turned violent the apparent demise of her book? Are we so unempathetic, so disenthisized to emotional pain and betrayal that unless it happens in a way that quite literally punches us in the face, we view ourselves as unmoved and worse, in a position to judge it? It’s funny how the very people in these comments that castigate Jen for psychoanalyzing Marco are the ones so ready to analyze and label her. Are you not the pot calling the kettle black? Or are you just so wise, high, and mighty that your analyzation isn’t immature but rather accurate? Who is the judge of your judgment I wonder.
Just consider what your words imply in these comment boxes. That Jen Waite was not only immature and petty and a poor writer but wrong in her assessment of Marco as a sociopath. For the other girls who read this book and had to stop reading because the panic it induced was too much, according to you, they needn’t fear. Their boyfriend or husband or father who behaved much like Marco wasn’t wrong or extraordinary but rather, just another man. Doing what men do. Lie and cheat and betray and we aren’t to call it out for the pain and trauma it leaves behind. We aren’t to label it so that others might come to understand and maybe prevent themselves from falling prey to the same traps. We are to write off these experiences as the mutterings of a silly little girl trying to get over a bad break up. Shame on you. To ignore her memoir is to ignore the reality of sociopathy and the spectrum of debilitating personality disorders. Just because it doesn’t look like what you imagined sociopathic hell to look like doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
And on that note, to anyone who doesn’t know the thinness of the line between emotional and physical abuse, that is because you have never been prey to either. Just because Marco never killed in this story doesn’t make him any less terrifying of a villain. To be without empathy, without the ability to feel guilt or remorse, without love for your child and family- those are people unhinged to the world. Those are people to fear. And whether Marco drove a knife into Jen’s back or one metaphorically through her heart, to read this book as an immature tale of a girl obsessed with fairy tales looking for a grand ending is to grandly miss the point. It is exactly those girls, with high ideals of life and love and the right amount of inexperience, that find themselves trapped in relationships that start off as Jen’s did but find themselves ending it in situations far more dire than what Jen experienced. She is not writing to impress on you the other worldly terribleness of her final story but rather, trying to warn other girls who find themselves at the beginning of theirs to turn back. Before that heartbreak becomes guiltless, carefully executed execution at the hands of someone who was built, by God or by luck itself, not to care. If that’s the ending you’d rather read, maybe you should be the one seeking therapeutic outlets.


Claire This is so spot on my exact feelings. I also hate when books put me into a PERSONAL judgmental seat. So much about this story is so raw, and yet so common that I keep thinking, How did you publish this book?! I don't even love the way she tells the "before" parts of her story. I feel like I'm reading boyfriend story emails from my sister when we were in college or something.


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